Published on Page A15 of the July 26, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer
Editor's Note: This is the fourth of a series of reports on lighthouses in Northern Luzon. The Inquirer is featuring these century-old structures to highlight their importance to the country's northern sea lanes and call public attention to their neglect.
ILOCOS SUR is one of the oldest provinces in the country and an important trading center for the Spaniards. The Chinese pirate Limahong used to pillage the settlements there and later traded with local folk four centuries ago.
The province has an extensive shoreline, but many residents are wondering why they can't spot a lighthouse as imposing as Cape Bojeador at the tip of Ilocos Norte.
But the lighthouses of Ilocos Sur are there, albeit forgotten and neglected. Now, local officials are calling for the restoration of the "lost beacons."
The once important lighthouses during the Spanish times are in Narvacan, San Esteban and Sinait towns, Vice Gov. Deogracias Savellano said.
"These are brick monuments of history. As much as we wanted to restore them, we have no funds yet for this project," Savellano said.
The structure in Narvacan may not even be a lighthouse but a watchtower.
Michael Canosa, 42, a resident of Barangay Sulvec, said the old brick facility in their backyard was built during the time of the Spaniards.
Canosa said based on the stories shared by his relatives, his great grandfather, Lope Canosa, was among the recruited soldiers who served as sentry under the Spanish government.
The watchtower was used to warn residents of the arrival of pirates.
"They would blow a horn to signal the arrival of the pirates for residents to prepare," Canosa said.
The watchtower is deteriorating; its bricks chipping off due to exposure to the elements. The ownership of the area where the watchtower sits is also being disputed in court between the Canosas and the municipal government.
Ilocos Sur Rep. Eric Singson has initiated moves to restore the lighthouse in nearby San Esteban. "Even if these lighthouses are obsolete, they are still important reminders of the glory that was Ilocos Sur," he said.
He said lighthouses used to draw the community together. To make his point, he converted the Parola lighthouse in Barangay Darapidap in Candon City into a promenade. The lighthouse was built in the 1950s.
A boardwalk, a fountain and a mini-stage were inaugurated in the area in April. Bands perform onstage during the balmy summer nights. Singson said an amusement park would be added later.
The 20-meter lighthouse is useful to fishermen in the town, Eduardo Villanueva, chair of Barangay Darapidap, said. "It serves as a reference for fishermen during blackouts."
At first, they used kerosene for the beacon until 1971 when electricity was tapped in the village.
Another modern lighthouse is in Cabugao town.
Savellano said the historic Dardarat lighthouse also guided fishermen's voyages to the Salomague port. Because of the port, Salomague is among the few Ilocos villages found on ancient mariner's maps.
"During the American occupation, it served as a mooring place for USS Manauili that ferried thousands of mostly Ilocano residents across the Pacific to work at sugar plantations in Hawaii and California," Savellano said.
Now leased to a private corporation, it is the transshipment port of goods and products to Taiwan. It is also the unloading point of commercial fishing vessels.